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Harsh light shines on Vietnam's prisons

Vietnamese dissidents and bloggers critical of the government are routinely handed long prison sentences for breaking vague national security laws. Yet the pervasive use of torture and abuse in detention points the harshest spotlight on the country's law enforcement, while dmissions of deaths have finally forced the government to acknowledge the brutality behind bars. - Zachary Abuza (Sep 22, '14)

Ghani declared Afghan president-elect

Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani celebrate in Kabul with a banner bearing his effigy after the former finance minister was declared Afghanistan's next president on September 21, hours after signing a power-sharing deal with his rival Abdullah Abdullah that ended a prolonged standoff over the disputed result. (Sep 22, '14)

How Syrian jihad spawned Islamic State
While the fight against Islamic State has created a parallel reality where war appears as "humanitarian intervention" and hardcore jihadis are innocuous-sounding "Syrian rebels", it is futile to deny the fact that in its eagerness to defeat the Syrian regime, the international community created Islamic State, even as the group itself is a brittle alliance of militants.
- Nauman Sadiq (Sep 22, '14)

To be a pilgrim
Novelist Haruki Murakami in his latest novel to be published in English seized on a famous photograph of tight-packed Japanese commuters on dull winter commute to question the value of our perceptions of other people. As a foreigner in any country, even trying to understand the psychology of a host society could be an illusionary task.
- Meric Kirmizi (Sep 22, '14)

Climate funds bypass indigenous peoples
Asian indigenous people say governments are manipulating financial incentives for developing countries to cut greenhouse gases, with leaders accused of abusing carbon-trading laws to seize ancestral lands for multi-million-dollar "conservation" efforts. While it's not clear where all the money is being spent, most goes to governments and corporations - not the communities supposedly being protected.
- Amantha Perera (Sep 22, '14)

Canada fails to meet East Asian potential
As the world moves beyond a "unipolar" order with the rise of East Asia, a growing number of Canadians want deeper involvement in the security dynamics of the region. Trade has evolved healthily over the past two decades, but Ottawa needs to include political and defense aspects if the relationship is to move forward.
- Adam P MacDonald (Sep 22, '14)

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The Middle East and its armies
The military successes of the Islamic State - at first apparently just a tatterdemalion bunch of ill-equipped jihadists before they became more clearly in focus as a force to be reckoned with - underlines the question of why regular armies across the Middle East and beyond have frequently proven to be ineffective under fire. - Brian M Downing (Sep 19, '14)

Obama's 'stupid stuff'
turned upside down

First US President Barack Obama promised there would be no ground troops to fight The Caliph - as in a re-invasion of Iraq. Then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey argues that if Obama's self-defined "Don't So Stupid Stuff" foreign policy doctrine does not work he'll go for ground troops. "Don't Do Stupid Stuff" changes its tune like surfing on iTunes. And the tune now is the "Syraq" offensive remixed.
- Pepe Escobar (Sep 18, '14)

IS and the blowback brewing
The stresses and fault lines the Middle East today could easily lead to implosions tomorrow, and America's past failure could see it be blamed, rightly or wrongly, for any ensuing mayhem. The critical questions the George W Bush administration ignored when it invaded Iraq remain applicable today for Barack Obama.
- Emile Nakhleh (Sep 19, '14)

China bargains with Indian territory

Far away from the cheer of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to India and the inking of deals which will boost investments, cut the trade imbalance and build a high-speed rail corridor, Beijing has orchestrated spurts of aggressive intrusions on India's border which reveal up close its true intentions and undermine the sincerity of strategic agreements.
- Namrata Goswami (Sep 19, '14)

The Tao of North Korea

Most outsiders think of the Korean peninsula as starkly divided: to the dark north is Gulag style, while the lights of the south flicker Gangnam Style. Forgot the statellite photos that illustrate the difference - North and South Korea are more Ying and Yang than many suppose, and they're slowly growing closer.
- John Feffer (Sep 19, '14)

A wild ride in China
The Incarnations
by Susan Barker

A sprawling tale of intersecting lives and generations that spans 1,000 years of blood- and sex-besotted Chinese history, this intricate work uses lively prose and perverse narrative twists to explore personal betrayal. Relentlessly dark and tragic, the book is fueled and fired by an astonishing imagination. - Kent Ewing (Sep 19, '14)

China still haunted by Japan
This month's celebration of a newly created "Victory against Japan" day in China is a reminder of how, despite burgeoning economic ties, Beijing continues to view the past as window into the future. China wants Japan to constantly remember its imperialist past and not repeat the mistakes of that period, but there are also risks in this approach.
- Amrita Jash (Sep 19, '14)

Last sunrise for the UK?
It is breathtaking that today could mark a velvet divorce between Scotland and England (plus the rest of the UK). This is not how separations have ended in most parts of the world - the 1971 civilian death toll in what is now Bangladesh was anything up to 3 million. What Scotland underscores is that it is not economic development (or deprivation) that lies at the root of political alienation.
- M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 18, '14)

Old imperial habits die hard
As the rest of the UK belatedly recognizes the possibility of losing the northern chunk of Britain, so grows a realization that the referendum may not only be about independence and that much more than Scottish "freedom" is at stake - nuclear weapons and a UN Security Council seat also lie in the balance. And if voters back a split from perfidious Albion, the conflict in Whitehall between revenge and reconciliation may well echo early negotiations for withdrawal from more distant bits of empire. (Sep 18, '14)

Palestinian reconciliation at crossroads
President Mahmoud Abbas has unleashed a media campaign against Hamas and the Palestinian resistance which makes it appear that he has prioritized "peace with Israel" over national reconciliation. If public pressure fails to stop the divisions, Abbas may achieve politically what Israel failed to achieve militarily. - Nicola Nasser (Sep 17, '14)

IS gives US its 'Suez Crisis' moment
The US action against Islamic State suggests it views intervention in Syria as a Trojan Horse opportunity to advance anti-Assad forces. Syria's Assad, Russia, and IS are not going to stand by as this plan is implemented. Nor, if IS activity expands in the region, will China wait, US "limit of empire" style, for disaster to pound at the door before thinking about doing something. It will respond pre-emptively and fiercely.
- Peter Lee (Sep 17, '14)

Tibetan railway signals border imbalance
Infrastructure development, including road and rail links on the Chinese side of the border with India, is a major cause of concern for India's political and military leadership, given the countries' long-standing border disputes. The recently completed extension of the Qinghai-Tibet railway line holds worrying security implications for New Delhi, but its concerns can be best addressed by increasing connectivity on the Indian side of the border. - Sana Hashmi (Sep 17, '14)

From Hamas royalty
to Israel's spy

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of the founders of the biggest Palestinian militant group, spent a decade working undercover with the Israeli security service, thwarting dozens of Palestinian attacks. His story sounds like the makings of a Hollywood big budget spy thriller, but is the plot of a documentary, The Green Prince, that sheds limited light on the relationship between a spy and his handler. - Mitchell Plitnick (Sep 16, '14)

What draws Modi to China
India's new dalliance with China gets seriously under way on Wednesday when, on the banks of the ancient Sabarmati river in Gujarat, Narendra Modi greets Chinese president Xi Jinping. The leaders meet at a figurative bend in a river, where expectations that India's foreign policy will continue to flow America's way are drying up as India follows the real money.
- M K Bhadrakumar (Sep 16, '14)

Russian tycoon's
arrest shocks
business community

The Russian business community was shocked by the arrest last week of one of Russia's richest industrialists - billionaire-tycoon Vladimir Yevtushenkov, chairman of the AFK Sistema conglomerate - accused of money laundering.
- Pavel Felgenhauer

Scarier than '07
Alibaba's record-setting initial public offering overshadowed a week of interesting market action and a new Federal Reserve Z.1 "flow of funds" report. One commentator argues "we are recreating the markets of 2007". It is a whole lot scarier than that.
Doug Noland looks at the previous week's events each Monday.

An interval in Ukraine conflict
The agreement on a memorandum of peace plan reached on late Friday between the Ukrainian government and and the pro-Russia separatists in the southeastern regions of that country at the talks held in Minsk, Belarus, has the look of a breakthrough, but in fratricidal strife with external involvement, there are too many cooks spoiling the broth. - M K Bhadrakumar

[Re The Tao of North Korea, Sep 19, 2014] Singapore might serve well as a bridgehead for US business and diplomacy with North Korea.
Junzo Nakamura
   Go to Letters to the Editor

1. Obama's 'stupid stuff' turned upside down

2. The Middle East and its armies

3. China bargains with Indian territory

4. IS and the blowback brewing

5. The Tao of North Korea

6. How Syrian jihad spawned Islamic State

7. A wild ride in China

8. China still haunted by Japan

9. Gaza and the threat of world war

10. IS gives US its 'Suez Crisis' moment

(24 hours to 11:59pm ET, Sep 22, 2014)


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